Finding History in Sewers: The Lost Streams and 19th-Century Sewer Tunnels Beneath Brooklyn


The Canal Street sewer, carrying the same flow of water that once ran above-ground and gave the street its name.

An illustrated lecture with historian and urban explorer Steve Duncan.

***SOLD OUT***

Date: Tuesday, June 19th

Time: 7:30

Admission: $10

Presented by Atlas Obscura

From ancient underground rivers and forgotten quarry tunnels to modern sewers and utility networks, the underground layers of the world’s great cities are full of places that are usually unseen, but that reveal the city’s history in new and startling ways. These hidden layers of the urban environment can teach us about how cities grow and function, and can provide a new perspective that highlights the ways that our daily experience in any city shapes- and is shaped by- the built environment around us.

For urban explorers, the quest to see and experience these places turns the great cities of the world into playgrounds of epic scale and drama, and shows that learning about history never has to be boring. Join photographer and historian Steve Duncan as he shares slides and stories of exploring sewers and storm drains in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and other cities- and learn why cities that forget the past are doomed, sooner to later, to find it flooding their basements.

Steve Duncan is an urban historian and an explorer and photographer of the urban underground. He has photographed sewers and underground rivers in cities from Antwerp to Yangon (but he’s still working on exploring in a city that begins with “z”), with particular focus on the underground hydrological and wastewater infrastructure of New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, and London. He has hosted a Discovery Channel show on urban archeology and has appeared on the History Channel and others as an expert on New York’s underground spaces. He received his MA in urban history and is currently working on his PhD in urban geography. For more information, go to

This is part of the “Atlas Obscura Speakers” series of talks at Observatory.


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